Nano Probe gains new insights into cell activity

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Protein

US researchers have created a nanoscale probe that can capture the
topography of biological objects in their normal environment, which
paves the way for the discovery of new biomarkers leading to better
drug design on the cellular level.

The new tool could assist researchers understand cellular interactions at the fundamental level, To create drugs capable of targeting human diseases, scientists must decode how cells communicate with other cells. Current tools can detect a small group of small molecules and for a more advanced analysis, the cells must be destroyed for sample preparation. This makes it difficult to observe complex cellular interactions as they occur in the human body. The researchers have created the Scanning Mass Spectrometry (SMS) probe, which works by pulling biomolecules (proteins, metabolites, peptides) precisely at a specific point on the cell/tissue surface, ionise these biomolecules and then producing "dry" ions suitable for analysis and then transport those ions to the mass spectrometer for identification. The probe images the surface and mapping cellular activities and communication potentially in real time and in scanning mode, the SMS probe could create images similar to movies of cell biochemical activities with high spatial and temporal resolution. "At its core, disease is a disruption of normal cell signalling,"​ said Andrei Fedorov, a professor in Georgia Tech's Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and lead researcher on the project. "So, if one understands the network and all signals on the most fundamental level, one would be able to control and correct them if needed. The SMS probe can help map all those complex and intricate cellular communication pathways by probing cell activities in the natural cellular environment,"​ he added. The SMS probe can be integrated with the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) or other scanning probes, and can not only image biochemical activity but also monitor the changes in the cell/tissue topology during the imaging. "The probe potentially allows us to detect complex mechano-bio-electro-chemical events underlying cell communication, all at the same time"​ Fedorov said. "The future work is in refinement of the idea and development of a versatile instrument that can be used by biological and medical scientists in advancing the frontiers of biomedical research."

Related topics Preclinical Research Ingredients

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